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Artifact

Brief IdentificationEdit

This Mihrab (prayer niche) is from the Beyhekim, also Bey Hakim or Beyhakim, Mosque in Konya, Turkey. It was gifted by the physician of Sultan Kiliç Arslan IV and dates to approximately 1270 CE, Hegira 669, during the time of the Seljuks of Anatolia, or the Seljuks of Rum (Eastern Rome). It stands 12 feet, 11.52 inches (395 cm) in height and is 9 feet, 2.24 inches (280 cm) in width, and is glazed ceramic, faience mosaic.

Intertwined with the geometric symbols and intricate line patterns is calligraphic script from the Qur'an; Sura 29, verse 45:"Proclaim what has been revealed to you in scripture and pray. Prayer protects against dishonour and temptation. And truly, to think of Allah is one’s greatest duty; and Allah knows what you do".[1]


The Mihrab from the Beyhekim Mosque is housed at The Museum of Islamic Art in Berlin, Germany.

Technical EvaluationEdit

The technique used to create this mihrab is glazed ceramic, faience mosaic. In this technique the surface to be tiled is coated with three layers of plaster. The first layer is a mixture of brick dust, sand, and lime. This layer is followed with ½ to two inch thick layer of sand, lime, and chopped straw which is then scratched in order to receive the third layer. The third layer, a very thin mixture of marble dust and lime known as itonaco, is then applied.[Funk and Wagnells]

It is on the final moist layer that the glazed ceramic tiles, tessera, are set in the desired mosaic pattern. The tiles, made of clay and grain, are made using the glazed ceramic technique. Each panel is then applied to the wall of the niche in order to complete the process.[Funk And Wagnells]

The Mihrab from the Beyhekim Mosque was discovered in many small pieces and was reconstructed to its current condition on display at the museum. [2]

Local Historical ContextEdit

Anatolia
[3]

Map: Anatolia: the Seljuk Empire, c.1080-1243 CE

The Seljuk Turks inhabited the ancient region of Asia Minor, having migrated from the Central Asian steppes, and ruled over most of Turkey starting in the 11th and into the 13th century. In 1299 CE the region would became a part of the Ottoman Empire and would eventually collapse and become Turkey. During the Seljuk reign the region was known as Anatolia, and it experienced some of its most prosperous times. The capital of Anatolia was Konya. They adopted Persian culture and converted to Islam. [4]

The 13th century seemed particularly prosperous for the Seljuk's thanks to their ruling institution; the royal house, the military upper class, and the bureaucratic elites. Their patronage help influence a flourishing architectural growth. (H. Crane)

Kiliç Arslan IV was one of three brothers to Sultan Giyaseddin Keyhusrev, and upon the father's death the empire was split between the three. In 1249 CE, under pressure from the Mongols, each brother was allowed to rule his territory under a decree from the Mongol Khans. It was during this period that the Beyhekim Mosque was constructed; an endowment from his physician. Soon thereafter in 1265 CE, Kiliç Arslan IV was assassinated. The empire would only survive three more sultans until 1309 CE. [5]

World-Historical ContextEdit

In the mosque, the mihrab serves as a directional reference. As is tradition in the Islamic faith one is to face towards Mecca when in the act of prayer. The function of the mihrab is to indicate the qibla which is the direction toward the Kaaba in Mecca. The mihrab is an integral part of all mosques. What makes this one, along with all others of the Anatolian region of this period are the tiles and how they were created.

The glazed brick and ceramic tiles technique of the Seljuk architecture was the initial major development in Islamic tile-making. [6] This glazing technique along with the blue pigments have become distinguishing and immediately recognizable characteristics of tile-work of this period in the history of the Muslim world.

Regarding the design of this piece, the architecture of this period shared influence with that of the Christian and Byzantine cultures and two characteristics are indicative of this influence. Each drew influence from the other. The center recess of the mihrab is similar in shape to the pointed arch of the Gothic era and mihrab itself serves a similar purpose as that of the radiating chapel in a Catholic Cathedral as a sacred space for prayer and ritual.

Suggested BibliographyEdit

Fred S. Klein, Gardner's Art through the Ages: A Global History, 14th Edition, (Ohio: Cengage Learning, 2012), 283-300

Patrick Frank, Prebles' Artforms, An Introduction to the Visual Arts, 10th Edition, (Boston, Prentice Hall, 2011), 300-301

H. Crane, Notes on Saldjuq Architectural Patronage in Thirteenth Century Anatolia, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Vol. 36, No. 1 (1993), 1-57, Accessed: 20-04-2015, doi: 198.137.20.188

A. C. S. Peacock, Georgia and the Anatolian Turks in the 12th and 13th Centuries, Anatolian Studies, Vol. 56 (2006), 127-146, Accessed: 20-04-2015, doi: 198.137.20.188

Funk And Wagnalls, Mosaics, Funk and Wagnells New World Encyclopedia, (2014), Accension number: MO153000

Turkish Cultural Foundation, "Seljuk Tiles and Ceramics," http://www.turkishculture.org/ceramic-arts//seljuk-tiles-ceramics-581.htm

Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Museum für Islamische Kunst, http://www.smb.museum/en/museums-and-institutions/museum-fuer-islamische-kunst/image-gallery.html

Museum With No Frontiers, http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;de;Mus01;19;en

The Seljuk Han of Anatolia, History of the Anatolian Seljukshttp://www.turkishhan.org/history.htm

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